granted - you should choose me as your photographer :)
HOWEVER - no matter who you choose as your photographer - here's a few guidelines:
1) the majority of photographers in general (and specifically in our area) get along with each other, share work, and have a common respect for each other. i have worked with more than one photographer in our area and i am seriously in awe of the respect that is shown. we share ideas, we share techniques, we share a lot of valuable information with each other - we give credit where credit is due.
we even share clients ... i have many photographers who have referred work to me because of scheduling conflicts or limits in what they feel they can do - and i gladly do the same. for instance - some photographers shoot AMAZING natural light with low faded colors and a retro feel ... some shoot brilliant colors with harsher details ... some shoot studio only ... some shoot outside only. it doesn't matter who you are as a photographer - every photographer has limitations and most have the common sense to humbly accept them. for this reason - if there's something i feel i cannot do - or i feel that your needs would be better served by another photographer - i will glady help you find one that fits your needs.
that being said - choose a photographer who is humble and gets along with the majority of photographers in your area!
2) pricing isn't everything. i've heard so much debate on pricing lately and i feel the need to say this. due to the influx of amazing camera technology - anyone could call themselves a "photographer" today. there are a LOT of people who can take a good picture. so why the pricing debate?
i guarantee if you took the cheapest photographer and the most expensive photographer you could find in our area - gave them the same person to take a picture of in the same field at the same time of day ... even take it a step further and let them use the same camera, same lens, and same lab to produce the images - put the images side by side and don't say which photographer took which picture - i guarantee you would choose the most expensive photographer every time.
why? you can argue equipment, labs, etc all that you want - but what you can't argue is a more expensive photographer knows how to run their camera. they worry about all the technical stuff so you don't have to. they know how to consistantly get good "technically-correct" images and turn them into amazing CLEAR prints. they don't need to spend hours editing an image to get it where they want or where it's presentable - they know how to set the camera to do all the work for them.
now, every photographer i do know shoots a little different from the rest (and that's ok!). as long as you have technically-correct images that you can blow up into 20x24 prints and they're still clear - it doesn't matter what photographer you choose. but save your money for the photographer that can do that because there is no reason to sacrifice quality over saving a few pennies!
so my suggestion - ask to see a photographers "whole" sessions rather than just what they pick for their best of galleries to show off. ask your photographer how many photos you get on a CD. if they say you get 30-50 images but only 5-10 look good - why would you pay for that? and seriously - NEVER prepay for a session or a disc (obviously for a wedding this is a little different because there are highly thorough contracts involved - etc) - but NEVER, and i repeat NEVER prepay for a session. there should be no reason why you should have to pay for a session before you even go there.
3) legalities. and this is my biggest, BIGGEST suggestion. i don't care if you skip over number 1 & 2 - don't skip this one. your photographer needs to be legal. what do i mean by legal? for starters - they NEED to be paying sales tax to the state of wisconsin (or whatever state they live in). if they say they are paying taxes - ask for the proof. they should have a tax-id number at the very least. if they're not paying taxes - you're paying higher taxes so they can run an illegal business.
they need to have insurance. there are a couple of reasons why - but one reason - god forbid they take you out on a photography shoot and you get hurt. they need insurance to cover you. you need them to have insurance so that if you suggest a shoot on the railroad tracks (for instance) and they get hit by a train - they don't sue you. ask to see their proof of insurance.
4) and my last suggestion for the day - if your photographer tells you that their photography equipment doesn't matter - find a new photographer.
there's a ton more i could say on this - but i'll keep it short and sweet for today. so, now that all being said :) i am going to be taking on a helper or two who are interested in assisting at a couple of our weddings coming up. possibly even a few of our family sessions depending on times. if you are interested - shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know what your skills are and what you shoot with (you must have your own equipment - and yes, equipment does matter).